The Vatican, Rome

Day 87, Thursday November 30, 2017

We bought tickets online for the Vatican in order to avoid the long line-ups we have read about. Arriving at 10:00 we are able to enter right away, but so is everyone else. There are no lineups anywhere.

The map provided by the museum isn’t the best but between it, a Rick Steve’s travel app, and Bob’s navigational skills we manage to find our way around.  If you walk through all the galleries, it’s 7.5 km, or 4.5 miles long and yes we walked through all the galleries!

Be warned, this is a long post, so you might want to get a cup of something hot before you visit the Vatican Museums with us!

One of the first sculptures we see is this copy of Michelangelo’s Pieta. the original is now behind glass because it was badly damaged by a deranged man 45 years ago. I think this is the closest I will get to taking my photo with this incredibly beautiful statue.
We see many examples of Early Christian and Medieval art. Before this trip I didn’t have a lot of interest in this genre but I discovered that I am rather fascinated by depictions of the Madonna. We even saw a pregnant Madonna, the only one I have ever seen.Next stop was a huge room with several very large tapestries. They were so finely woven that they almost looked like paintings.

This very large angel from1666 was one of four preparatory straw and clay models for bronze castings by Bernini.A enormous collection of ancient sculptures, sarcophaguses, reliefs and  building parts was next. There was also a display of drawings, which I found interesting.  I speculate that there must have been a drawing workshop.
This is a floor mosaic that I remember seeing in books. I always liked the little mouse. The tiles are very small. I can almost feel the wind blowing these garments about.One of the reliefs on display.There is a large collection of vehicles used by Popes over the centuries.
We didn’t know that all papal vehicles come equipped with a throne!The Vatican has an extensive collection of Egyptian artifacts many of which are superior to the ones we saw in museums in Egypt! It is easy to forget that all these hieroglyphs were at one time bright painted like the inside of the coffin.The painted bas-relief fragment is from 2400 B.C.The Mummy of Taymen is from 750-525 B.C. We never saw anything like this in Egypt. It was fascinating, but I know this person never intended to be on display in a museum!There are many galleries of Greek, Etruscan and Roman artifacts and these which are from Syria-Palestine during the Neolithic period 8500-3000 B.C.

We descended this staircase to emerge …

in a very long hallway lined with over a thousand sculptures!There were several museum workers busy dusting and cleaning. I imagine that by the time they finish it must be time to start again.The gallery above opened into this one, lined with even more monumental statues. It simply takes my breath away.A Roman copy of a Greek original dating from the 2nd century A.D. The affection for the child is evident in the way he is held and regarded. I can’t imagine that something so life-like can be carved in stone.I am fascinated with the carved flowing robes. I have a hard time even drawing folds never mind chiseling them from stone.This is the Nile River God with another sculpture filled niche behind.

There is an outside courtyard with a covered display area all around the exterior walls. There we see the biggest toe. Can you imagine the size of the statue this once belonged to? That is my foot beside it.

There are many incredible statues on display…  but I am particularly drawn to these three. The Belvedere Apollo, the Belvedere Hermes, and the Laocoön. The Laocoön was unearthed during  Michelangelo’s time and it had a great influence on his work. 

This sculpture of the River God Arno was the inspiration for Michelangelo’s David in the Sistine Chapel.

The Belvedere Torso was also the inspiration for Michelangelo’s God in the Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel.We need to remember to look up. The ceilings in these galleries are as incredible as the art work below them.The Hall of Muses with its magnificent dome, mosaic floor, statues of the nine muses from the 2nd century A.D. and the largest carved stone basin in the world.These statues are monumental! Oh, and we are walking on the beautiful old mosaic floor here too.
It looked like the statue was trying to give this rather bored looking guard something.These bronze hands decorated with gold buttons are from the 1st half of the 7th century B.C. I thought they looked like a modern work of art.More display rooms with ornate ceilings…and lots more pots and other artifacts. In fact there were many rooms like this. We walked through all of them but I have admit that after a while we didn’t even try to look at all the items.
I did love these two horse heads…and there were some great views of Rome from the Gallery windows.Bob is trying to figure out where we go next.Turns out it is this room, with even more sculptures and carved stone artifacts, and yet another incredible ceiling.We both remember seeing a copy of this little boy with his goose in the Louvre many years ago. Interesting that we see it here in Rome too.The Arazzi Gallery is a long hall with more tapestries on both sides.This tapestry has an optical illusion. As we walk by it appears as if Jesus’s eyes are following us and he even seems to move through the doorway. It is very strange.

The Gallery of Maps is astounding. It seems to go on forever. The walls are lined with huge maps of all of Italy but it is the ceiling that grabs our attention. It is covered with paintings and sculptures and ornate frames.The lighting makes the ceiling look golden in the photo above but this photo shows its true colours. I just don’t know what to say. Words are simple inadequate to describe this very, very long ceiling. It is almost unbelievable.
There are more galleries but we are getting very tired. We decided several hours ago that we need to come finish seeing everything another day. We make our way to the Sistine Chapel. We are so lucky, because it is late in the day there are not many people in the chapel. We find a seat along the wall and look up. There is so much to see. I think it is amazing that we are sitting here, in the Sistine Chapel looking at this masterpiece. We probably spend almost an hour here but it is time to go as we still need to visit St .Peters and see the Pieta.It is night when we leave the Vatican Museums. We go through the ‘secret passage’ that allows us to enter the basilica without having to line up and go through security again.There she is. The Pieta, in all her glory. After spending some time with the Pieta, we walk around the basilica. We wanted to visit the grotto beneath the church but it is already closed. I like the little dragon between the bottom two figures in the sculpture.
St. Peter’s right foot has been rubbed almost away by the touch of thousands of pilgrims over the centuries.
There is a mass taking place so we listen to the organ music and singing for bit before we finally head home. It has been long day. We spent 8 wonderful hours in the Vatican Museums but we are both very tired..

Siena, and the Museo della Carta e della Filigrana, Fabriano, Italy

Day 69, Sunday November 12, 2017

I really wanted to visit Fabriano and the Museo della Carta e della Filigrana, (Museum of Paper and Watermarks.) Fabriano is known internationally for its quality paper.The only day we could fit it in was Sunday afternoon so today we drove from Florence to Perugia with a short stop in Siena, and then on to Fabriano.

The drive from Florence to Siena was beautiful. Lots of rolling hills with little towns perched high on the hilltops. It is definitely autumn and the trees are turning colour, but as Bob said, it is like our September autumn, and it is November here.We enter Siena by walking though a gate in this wall. You can just see the arch of the top of the gate.We wanted to visit the Sienna Duomo but it is closed to tourists until 1:30. I ask the guard if we can visit for a quiet time to think about Baba and she lets us enter. There is a mass taking place so we sit and have some reflective time, listening to beautiful singing and the Italian sermon. This is the inside of the Duomo with its black and white striped marble pillars and incredible inlaid marble floors.We wander the  streets and pass this little gallery with all the horses. Quite appropriate for Siena as the Palio is held here twice a year. This is a bareback horse race that is held in the Piazza Del Campo. Check out the link for some great photos of this event. I toss a coin and make a wish in this ancient well, and admire the paintings on the ceiling which are outside and exposed to the elements.The streets are narrow with tall buildings on either side…with wonderful sights tucked away in courtyards and…at the end of this long sloping road we enter a large open square. It is the famous Piazza Del Campo where the Palio is takes place.We didn’t have a lot of time here as we need to be in Fabriano this afternoon so all too soon we head back towards our car, which is parked outside the old city. The buildings here are all beautiful shades of sienna and ochre. Loved the horse.There are great views.These six very long very steep escalators were a great help getting us up to and down from the old town. I was feeling a bit weary today and quite happy I didn’t have to climb all those hundreds of steps.  Here we are, leaving Siena, there are no flat roads here!We have time to check into our Airbnb and then drive to Fabriano, almost an hour away. Our tour of the paper mill was at 4:30. We arrived at 4:00, just in time to watch an English video about paper making as the tour was only in Italian!  I didn’t think to check that when I reserved way back in August, however, after our video a very nice woman gave us a tour in English! I think the fellow at the ticket office got her especially for us. She was great, very knowledgeable and very pleasant. This is a photo of her from a show that National Geographic made about the Fabriano Paper mills and paper making. I can’t remember her name, but she was very knowledgeable and spent quite a bit of time with us.We got to see the old hammer mills in operation and a master papermaker came and pulled some sheets of paper with watermarks to demonstrate the process. I just loved the old wooden press. It is just a bit bigger than the one I use at home when pressing my handmade paper. The museum has a fantastic collection of very old papers and papers with watermarks. Their Fabriano Mill makes watermarked paper for bank notes for several countries, but I most fascinated with their with chiaroscuro watermarks .

For those unfamiliar with watermarks, take a quick look at the link above which simply explains what they are and how they are made. For a more detailed explanation take a look at this link from the Museo della Carta e della Filigrana

I get myself a souvenir from our visit to Fabriano, a piece of paper with a watermark of two angels called Il Primo Bacio (The first Kiss) by William Bouguereau. I just need to decide how to display it, as the watermark only shows when it is held up to the light.

Image result for il primo bacio painting
There are a couple art shows in the hallways of the museum and I absolutely adored the work of Valentina Verlato.   This link takes you to her Italian website but if you type her name into Google you will have the option of translating the website into English. Of course, the photos on internet just don’t compare to the actual paintings.
As we left the museum the street lamps lit up the leaves above us.Day 70,  Monday November 13, 2017

We spend a quiet day at home. We have been travelling for ten weeks and I am just a bit tired. Bob did go out exploring the town of Perugia but most of the sites were closed today so he came home early.He did get some great views of Perugia which he said is ‘lots of steps!”

Tomorrow we are on our way to Rome!

Day 71, Tuesday November 14, 2017

Our drive to Rome went well and we arrived at our Airbnb early afternoon. We were very relieved that it is not a ‘smoking allowed’ apartment as that is what showed up when we checked our booking a couple of days ago. I was so worried that it would smell awful and that we would have to find another place at the last minute. It seems that the Airbnb site ‘updated’ and incorrectly listed the apartment as ‘Smoking Allowed.” This was also a surprise to our host who assured us that it was indeed a non smoking apartment. It is a lovely place and I think we are going to be very happy here for the next two weeks.

Day 72, Wednesday November 15, 2017

We spent a quiet day at home today, resting, organizing and planning what we will see and do in Rome.

Michelangelo’s David

Day 66, Thursday, November 9, 2017

We arrived at the Galleria Dell’Accademia with our tickets for 11:15 and a very kind guard let us in a half hour early.  Our first view of David is pretty wonderful.We walk past Michelangelo’s ‘prisoners’ forever trapped in their unfinished state, on our way to David. There are a lot of people but we take a photo, me and David!

David is even more spectacular than I remember from our visit in 1980, although when we were last here there was no barrier between us and the statue. Of course that was before someone took hammer to David’s left foot!

This 17 foot tall masterpiece is mesmerizing. I sit and draw David. It is still a bit intimidating to sit in public and draw, but people were very kind and very curious about what I was doing. I was aware that there was usually someone standing behind me, watching and taking photos and many people came up to talk to me and ask if it was OK to take a picture. One lady went and got her parents to come meet me and another woman looked at my drawing and said “God Bless You!” Bob wandered off to an exhibit of musical instruments so that I had time to sit and draw. We spend a bit of time going through the rest of the museum. This room full of plaster casts was amazing.There are several more rooms with beautiful iconographic paintings… and a fifteen foot long embroidered altar cloth for the main altar of the Santa Maria Novella Church from 1336. This was the work of one man. I can’t even imagine how long it would take to completely cover such a large cloth in the embroidered stitches.

In the evening I attend a life drawing session at the Florence Academy of Art in the evening. I planned on arriving early to introduce myself and get settled, however our bus was almost 40 minutes late so I arrive about 15 minutes late. That was quite stressful. I decided to ‘christen’ the nice new sketchbook that I bought in Venice.Unfortunately I also had to leave a half hour early because there was going to be a transportation strike starting at 9:00 and it is too far to walk home.  I still enjoyed the session even though I wasn’t all that happy with my drawing.  I met a couple very nice artists, including a woman from Smithers B.C. who was attending a six-week workshop at the Academy. 

Naval Museum, La Spezia, Italy

Day 59, Thursday November 2, 2017

This is the view from the little balcony at the back of our apartment. Take a look at the long stairway covered with grape vines up to the yellow house. Imagine climbing those stairs every day!The view from the balcony in the front of our apartment looking down the hill and…this is looking up the hill.  The town of La Spezia is built on hills and it is the closest bigger town to Cinque Terre. The trains leave frequently for the short trip to the ‘Five lands.’I stayed home today for some much needed rest after our two days of hiking the trails in Cinque Terre. I didn’t accomplish much, photographed my sketches of people on the bus and metro and did our laundry.

I never know how long I will have to draw before a person leaves. I drew the fellow playing the violin standing in front of me on the Milano metro, and had less than a minute before he moved on.Bob went for a long walk today to the Naval Museum by the harbour. He took these great photos of some mast heads. He knows how much I like dragons.More mast heads.They are also known as figureheads.This model of the Santa Maria, the ship that Columbus sailed to North America is about three feet long.

Yesterday’s photos of the netting in the trees shows how olives are harvested. The trees are shaken and the olives drop onto the netting. The strange little machine is how they move the harvest down the mountains and steep hills. It is loaded with olives, and runs on cogs, kind of like a roller coaster for olives!

Bike Ride

Day 50, Tuesday October 24, 2017

Our Airbnb has bikes so today Bob went for a 34 km bike ride along this river.  It only took him 3 1/2 hours, including his lunch break. Much better time than if I was along for the ride! You can see the mountains way in the distance in this one.I had a much-needed quiet day. I did all our laundry and a bit in my journal. I finally was able to take photos of the finished pages. Usually by the time get home it is too dark to get decent pictures. 
I drew this page in the car on the way to Dubrovnik.When we were in Venice I finally started to draw while I was on the bus or waiting for the vaporettos. I took a hardcover Stillman and Birn Alpha Sketchbook for this trip instead of my own handmade signatures. It is nice having everything already bound in a book but it is much heavier to carry around. The 9″x6″ landscape format is a bit awkward when I draw standing and a bit too big and obvious when I try to draw people without them noticing that I am doing so. I think I will go back to my old system of carrying a signature at a time in a folder and then binding them all together when I get home for any other trips.

I started to draw in a little notebook that is maybe about 3″x5″ and that is working for those times when my bigger book isn’t. I showed the lady in the last drawing her portrait as she walked by on the bus, and she was quite pleased. She told her friends so I held it up for them to see, and lots of other people saw it and were smiling at me about it.  Kind of nice. 
I had a chance to sit and draw the Karaka on location which was fun and challenging.This ‘steam punky’ fish was interesting to draw . I used my favourite Bic pen for this one. I have bits and pieces done on other journal pages, but really I am quite behind. I am trying to draw more on location whenever possible.

Our Last Day in Venice

Day 48, Sunday October 22, 2017

A week goes by much too quickly in Venice. There is so much to see, and although we wandered the streets and rode the canals I feel like there is so much that we missed. Our day started out interestingly. As we waited for our bus we heard lots of sirens and then we watched a police escort for lots of motorcycles, probably more than a hundred of them! It was quite something to see.We have a few smaller museums that we want to visit.  Ca’ Rezzonico is first on our list. It was the home of noble family in the 1700’s and once more we see room after amazing room. The ceiling in this room was painted by Tieplol in just twelve days for a wedding! It is so large that I couldn’t even get it all into a photo.Bob was intrigued by the two wooden chandeliers in the ballroom. Imagine having a ballroom your home!The top floor of this museum had thirteen rooms of paintings donated from a private collection and some fantastic views of Venice.There were also several pastel paintings by Rosalba Carriera, 1673-1757, one of the few succesful women painters of this time.
Next stop was Carlo Goldoni’s House, which is a very small theatrical museum with a great staircase.

I was worried that a little book store called Rivoaltus might not be open on Sunday.  We visited this shop on one of our first days in Venice and it had the lovely expensive sketchbook I mentioned that I coveted.  The shop was open and see that empty spot on the bottom shelf? The sketch book is now in my suitcase! Here we are on the Rialto Bridge near the book store.Next stop was the Museum of Palazzo Mocenigo, which was a palace that is now a museum of fabrics, costumes and perfumes. This collection of men’s waistcoats was one of the interesting displays. This collection of ‘archive bundles’ is thought to be of some importance although it has not yet been studied in depth.Here is a close up of some of the bundles. I wonder what interesting documents might be tucked away inside?After wandering up and down more streets and peeking inside a church or two we find a Gondola ride. When we were in Venice almost 40 years ago, we thought the gondolas were too expensive so we never went on one. We rectified that today.Our ride takes us along small canals, under many bridges,
and eventually onto the Grand Canalwhere our excellent Gondoliersafely manoeuvred through this traffic jam.The buildings look a bit different for this perspective, low in the water.
Soon we are back where we started and …it is time to leave Venice.

Venice Museums

Day 47, Saturday October 21, 2017

Today was a museum day. We visited the Correr Museum, the National Archaeological Museum and the Monumental Rooms Biblioteca Marciana.   These museums are in the building that is on three sides of San Marco Square. On the way there I stop for another picture of the Bridge of Sighs.The Correr Museum is in a sumptuous building that once was the residence of the sovereign when Venice was under Austrian rule. Its many rooms are ornately decorated.I love the cabinets of this time. Just imagine all the treasures that were tucked into these many drawers and compartments.This library room has floor to ceiling shelves of old and rare books. This one with vellum pages is open for display..One of the many rooms filled with sculptures.

Have you ever seen toes this big?This room was once a library, with an amazing ceiling, but today it holds an exhibition of very expensive jewelry and jewelled objects. I only discover tonight that there is in fact a library we could have visited that sounds wonderful only it wasn’t open today, and isn’t open tomorrow. Some of tourist information here is a bit difficult to find. I am quite disappointed that we won’t be able to visit this library of ancient books and manuscripts.I walked in support of an exhibit about a young woman named Ashra who walked   11,146,312 meters to reach Italy from Sub-Saharan Africa, like many before her and many after her. Visitors to the gallery walk and their steps are recorded to reach the same number of meters.

There are many rooms of medieval paintings. I particularly liked this one.This exhibit had the stories of each of the people photographed written in Farsi over their hands and faces.  Bob was trying to figure out how to get to the second story of books in this library room.I took this photo from the second floor window at the opposite end of San Marco Square. There are more people today than we have seen on the other days we were here…and lots of people were feeding the pigeons even though there are signs saying not to.These big cruise ships are part of the reason that Venice is so polluted. One ship creates as much pollution in a day as one million cars!The sun tried to peek out but couldn’t quite manage it.  Oh well, at least it wasn’t raining.We sat beside the Doge’s Palace to eat our lunch and watch the people walking by. It is one of the few places where there is a place to sit. I think that Venice has so many visitors that the city doesn’t want people to sit for a while unless you are in a restaurant.

There were so many more tourists in Venice today…and we had to laugh at this group of women who had tied their scarves together and were all holding on, just like little kids in daycare.We wanted to see Venice by night so we stayed out late. We took a vaporetto ride down the main canal to San Marco Square that took much longer than we expected. The boat went very slowly, perhaps because none of the boats on the canals have navigational lights!  They only have very small lights, usually a white one on the front and a red one on the side. It is almost impossible to see the boats and I have no idea how they manage to navigate in the dark!The gondolas often didn’t have any lights at all! It seemed rather dangerous to me.The Rialto Bridge at night is quite beautiful. Notice no lights on the boats.We finally arrived at San Marco Square, expecting all sorts of activity and there is almost no one there!  We were pretty disappointed. I took a picture of the Basilica and we took another very slow boat ride back to the bus and then home. It was a long day today, we were out and about for twelve hours!.

Cavtat, Croatia

Day 39, Friday October 13, 2017

We spend the day at a little coastal town named Cavtat, which is about a 35 minute bus ride from our apartment. Here is Main Street Cavtat…which is the birthplace and home of one of Croatia’s most famous artists Vlaho Bukovac, (1855-1922). As a young artist he painted the walls of his parent’s home.Here is the view from a room at the front of the house.His studio was on the fourth floor, with huge north facing windows. It is a beautiful atelier…with a ‘modern’ bathroom!I really like his paintings and studies. Next we climb high above the town to the Račić Family Mausoleum. This family mausoleum now serves as a chapel for the town cemetery. The father, son, and daughter all died from the Spanish flu just a day before the son was to be married.  Račić’s widow ordered the mausoleum built and then she died from grief a year after her family’s deaths. The interior is amazing, the inside of the dome is decorated with 136 heads of angels.A view of the town from our walk down from the mausoleum.          Back in town we have ice cream and sit for a while along the water while I sketch the view below. You can just make out the mausoleum on the skyline.

This photo is Dubrovnik way off in the distance.

All too soon the sun starts to set and we catch our bus home.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Day 38, Thursday October 12, 2017

After a leisurely morning we return to Old Town Dubrovnik for some more exploring. First we visit Marin Držiç House which is a memorial museum for one of Croatia’s greatest playwrights. I decide to have a little one on one conversation with this interesting fellow.The Ethnographic Museum is next, and it is located in a very interesting building that was the town granary in the 16th Century. Reserves of grain were kept in 15 very large wells carved in stone. The dark grates in the floor of the main floor open into these wells.These little stone trap doors on the second floor were used to drop the grain down into the wells below.There are many exhibits of traditional handmade textiles, clothing, household items and traditional handicrafts. I would love to have a stove like this!
There are some interesting drawings on some of the pillars.
The streets here are so old.We stop for ice cream and some people watching. Men and women are rappelling down the city walls…and getting their photos taken with these exotic birds.The Friars Franciscan Monastery Museum has the oldest operating pharmacy in Europe and a beautiful garden cloister.

They also have an amazing library but unfortunately it is not open to the public because it is upstairs where the priests live. At least there are a few books on display. 

There are also some vestments with incredible embroidery.

The Franciscan church beside the museum is beautiful but it has a couple unusual features.

The paintings here are certainly different, and…

notice the hand holding the crucifix.  

We walk to the Art Gallery Dubrovnik which is located in a former palace of a Dubrovnik ship owner. There are several portraits I really like. 

We make our way back through the old town, stopping for tea and some more people watching before catching our bus home. There were street performers and…happy children chasing pigeons.

Crikvenica, Croatia

Day 24, Thursday, September 28, 2017

About 40 minutes north of Senj is the is the town of Crikvenica, which is one of the most popular tourist resorts in this area. It has a long pebble beach and we finally feel like we are at an ocean beach. It is a beautiful sunny day and 25 above.There aren’t a lot of people on the beach but we do see quite a few people in the water, which I think is still a bit cool. We walk south along the beach to the Kaštel Hotel which used to be a monastery in the 14th Century. It is pretty quiet down this end of the beach so we walk in the other direction…

looking for a spot to sit and have lunch. I find this old abandoned hotel, the Miramare, to draw, so we sit here for a while but sitting on a pebble beach isn’t the most comfortable.

We find softer seats and enjoy a drink gazing out at the ocean. 

There seem to be a lot of portrait busts in Croatia and I particularly like the attitude of this one.These begonias and potato vines grow about ten times larger than they do in our back yard!On our way to Senj we drove on this elevated highway but we had no idea we were up so high. Today we parked right underneath it.

I snap these two pictures from the car window on the way home. The late afternoon sun was reflecting on the water and the Bura (wind) was picking the water up off the surface of the ocean in places.Too bad that isn’t visible in these photos.I tried to get a picture of this bell tower on the way to Crikvenica  but was too late and missed it again coming home but I was able to snap this photo in the rear view mirror.

Here are a few more journal pages. I am behind but I have bits and pieces finished between these pages and today’s drawing. It was great to sit and sketch on location today. I have managed that a few times but definitely need to make more time for this during the rest of our holiday.